Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

In December 2006, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This came into force in May 2008 and was ratified by the UK in August 2009. International law rules that the nation-state that ratifies the treaty is obliged to ensure compliance. So the UK is duty bound to uphold the articles contained within the protocol. In fact, Article 4(2)(a) requires ‘The State’ to use its maximum resources for compliance with these standards:

To adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognised in the present Convention;

However, the CRPD has grave implications for parents. Article 7 specifically covers the rights of children with disabilities. Article 7(2) says this:

In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

The suggestion then is this: if the state proves that it is acting in the child’s best interest, it can decide treatment, over and above the wishes of a parent. In fact, Article 25(1)(b) urges the nation-state to intervene where it deems fit:

Provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate.

Unfortunately, the CRPD lacks an article covering the rights of parents of children with disabilities. Which probably means that it is wrong to assume that, ultimately, a parent has the final say on their child’s cancer treatment. In fact, it seems they are powerless; if the UK government ever deems it proper to intervene, then there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it. Can it be right that the state decides what is right, disregarding the views of a caring, responsible parent? The UN CRPD is probably a well-intentioned treaty, but it could spell disaster for families with children with disabilities, already facing tough healthcare decisions.

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